Friday, December 21, 2012

Mayan celebrations, Happy December 21, 2012!

Since the world didn't end as the Mayan calendar may have suggested, I'm gearing up to do the very last of my Christmas shopping.  This means that I need to head out to the Bulk Food store and pick up some last minute ingredients.  I'm making jars of taco seasoning to hand out to a few people as nice little homemade gifts. 

As I prepared my shopping list I realized that my recipe is on my iPod (thank you Dropbox!) but I couldn't access it away from the house.  So I used that handy-dandy snapshot feature and took a picture of my screen.

And now, so that you can make it too (it really is a wonderful seasoning, and it's great to know what's in it!), here is my "shopping list" snapshot of the recipe:

This should make 4 or 5 little jars of seasoning for the Mayans in your life.

For those who wish to make slightly less...

Jar of Taco Seasoning
1/4 cup Chili powder
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp paprika
1/4 cup cumin
2 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp black pepper

For 1lb ground meat
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

To prepare, add 1 Tbsp seasoning to your meat/beans, along with 1/2 cup water and 1 clove of garlic.  Simmer, serve, enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Magic Bags (Christmas gift idea!)

I came up with an idea for a "Teacher Gift" this Christmas.  You just can't have enough of these hanging around your house, so even if our teachers have one, I'm sure they'd appreciate another.

(Edited: These are great to heat up in the micro-wave for muscles aches or to keep in the freezer as a cold compress.)

These Magic Bags start out as a rectangle of fabric, 11"x16".  (I used a brushed cotton, $5.00/meter.)

I folded the fabric so that the outside was in, and sewed the 16" long edges together, and then sewed up one of the ends.

I turned the fabric right side out and filled it with just under 2 lbs of rice (I think 1.88 lbs was the final weight.)

I folded the final open edge in on itself and pinned it together, sewing that last bit together.


 You can give this away or keep it for yourself.

Total cost: $2.00

This is the poem I've written to attach to each one:

This Magic Bag, all filled with rice,
Works hot or cold; it's mighty nice!

Keep it cool to soothe a knot
When a cold compress hits the spot

Or warm it up to soothe an ache
and ward off cold from snowing flakes

This handmade gift brings Christmas cheer
And wishes for a blessed New Year!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Hot Cocoa Day!

I just finished baking slightly over 1200 Christmas goodies.  I've posted links to the recipes below so that you can make some too if you like.  But then I found out that it's National Cocoa Day, so I figured I needed to make some cocoa to go with these treats.

I found a recipe on Allrecipes but changed it a bit, to suit my tastes.  This is a nice, rich cocoa that will warm your hands on a cold almost-winter's day.

1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup boiling water

3 1/2 cups milk

Vanilla extract (or some other flavour)

Combine cocoa, sugar and salt in a large saucepan.  Add boiling water and heat over medium heat until bubbles begin to form, continuously stirring with a whisk.  Add milk and continuing heating and stirring until it is hot.  Do not let the milk boil.  Remove from heat.  Add a dash of your favourite extract (vanilla, almond, mint, hazelnut, coconut) to give it extra flavour.  Enjoy on its own or with a crisp shortbread (or, I suppose, another delectable treat would suffice.)



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas/Teacher Gift Idea

I have an idea.  I'm always on the lookout for gift ideas for the person who seems to have it all, or the person who I just don't know well enough to get something they'll adore.

I was tucking my daughter into bed tonight and thought, "It's cold in here.  I really need to figure out how to make a magic bag for her."  (Magic bags are those awesome bags, filled with rice or oats, the kind you then pop in the micro-wave or freezer to get it hot or cold.)

That got me thinking that this would be a great gift for pretty nearly anyone.  And hand-made, it could be quite inexpensive.

So I'm soliciting ideas...

Which material would you choose to fill the bag?  Rice, oats, beans, barley, something else?  Have you made one before and do you have tips to share.  It seems pretty straight-forward, but I'm pretty good at messing things up. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Feta Mushroom Tarts with Caramelized Onions

I made some baklava for a Mediterranean dinner that I'm attending tonight, but I had lots of leftover phyllo dough. I took one look at my mushrooms and feta cheese and knew I needed to make something with all of these ingredients. It's pretty simple, but take a bit of time. These babies are in the oven right now and I can hardly wait to taste one!

Phyllo dough (leftover scraps, cut down to about 4 to 5 inch wide squares)
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion, sliced thinly
4 cups mushrooms, roughly sliced
Salt and pepper and thyme to taste

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup oil (as needed, in a bowl)

Sauté onions in butter on very low heat for 30 minutes until nearly see-through. Add mushrooms. Allow mushrooms to cook down on a slightly higher temperature for about 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper and thyme to taste.

While the vegetables are sautéing, place one phyllo sheet in a muffin cup. Spread oil (with a pastry brush) on the pastry. Add another sheet, repeat. Continue until 12 cups have 4 sheets each.

Place a few crumbles of feta cheese in the bottom of each phyllo cup. Scoop one large spoonful of mushroom mixture into each cup. Crumble remaining feta onto each cup. Leave open or fold to close. If you fold these to close them, brush a little more oil on the top/outside.

Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cinnamon Rolls

I make these cinnamon rolls for special occasions, birthdays, bake sales, etc.  They are always a hit.  Friends ask when I'm making them next; my brother-in-law barters a computer fix for a cinny-bun fix.  And since there's only so much time in the day, I feel the need to share the recipe around, so others can start filling this vast need for homemade cinnamon buns.

With this simple step-by-step guide, pictures included, you, too, could be well on your way to dazzling your friends and family with these delicious cinnamon rolls.

Melt-in-your-mouth Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 30 rolls




  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • ½ cup margarine, melted*
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 ½ cup white bread flour
  • 2 ¼ tsp bread machine yeast (1 envelope)

Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup margarine, softened*

 Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ½ cup cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup margarine, softened*
  • 1 ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp lemon flavor
*For the record, I use butter almost exclusively these days, but you can use margarine interchangeably in this recipe.


  1. Put the dough ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed above (or according to your bread machine manual.)  Prepare dough using dough setting on bread machine.
  2. Just before you begin rolling out the dough, warm your oven up to 200°F.  When it is up to temperature, turn the oven off.  The rolls will rise in the slightly warmed oven.
  3. Mix 1 cup of brown sugar and 3 Tbsp cinnamon from the filling recipe.  Allow the ½ cup of margarine to soften at room temperature.
  4. After the dough cycle has completed, roll and stretch the dough out on a lightly floured surface into about a 12″ by 20″ rectangle. (10" x 36" if you want to make mini rolls)

Spread margarine on the dough, leaving an inch unbuttered along the two wide sides so that you can seal the roll.  Evenly distribute the Sugar and Cinnamon mixture.  Be careful to leave your 1″ edges clean.  Brush water onto the unsugared edge.  This will help you seal the roll.

Cut the dough in half so that you have two slabs, 6 inches high and 20 inches wide. (5" x 36" if you want to make mini rolls.)

Roll the dough, starting at the dressed edge, towards the unbuttered edge. Pinch the clean edge with the roll to seal it.

Trim off the left and right ends of the roll. Mark the roll into 15 equal portions.  Cut along the marks to form 15 rolls, just over an inch wide.  Repeat with the second roll.
Either grease two 10×15 bar pans or line them with parchment paper. Place 15 rolls in each pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and let them rise in the pre-warmed oven for about 45 minutes (until doubled in size).  (If you do not have this size pan, just do fewer rolls in a smaller pan.  They need their space though, so make sure there is plenty of room to expand without them running into each other.)

Remove from oven and bump the oven temperature up to 335°F.  Once the oven is up to temperature, remove the plastic wrap and bake rolls at 335°F for 20-25 minutes, moving the pans from top to bottom half way through the baking. The resulting rolls should be only lightly browned.

While the rolls are baking prepare your cream cheese frosting.


Cream Cheese Frosting


  • ½ cup cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup margarine, softened
  • 1 ¾ cup powdered/confectioners/icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp lemon flavor


  1. Mix cream cheese and margarine for 5 minutes until thoroughly mixed and creamed.
  2. Add 1 cup of the powdered/confectioners/icing sugar and mix for 1 minute on low.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup of powdered/confectioners/icing sugar and mix for an additional minute.
  3. Lastly, add the vanilla and lemon flavor and whip for 1 minute on medium.
  4. When the rolls are finished baking, frost them while they’re still warm and serve them immediately.

These can be reheated, much like a Krispy Kreme doughnut, for 9 seconds for that "just out of the oven" taste.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gluten-Free Gingersnaps


Grandma's birthday is coming up! Since she needs to eat wheat-free and dairy-free foods, we're making these gluten-free gingersnaps. I'm busy getting other stuff done though, so I wrote out a recipe in very kid-friendly terms, gathered some young bakers, explained a few points about the recipe to them, and sent them to work.

I headed out shopping and came back an hour later to find some beautiful, crisp gingersnaps that Grandma will absolutely love!

They can be taught!

(Apparently, Dad helped them mix just a little bit and then he also helped get the cookie sheets in and out. The rest was done by the 8 and 10 yr olds.)

Here's the recipe:

Grandma's Gluten-Free Gingersnaps (Kid-Friendly recipe)

1. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

2. Put 1/4 cup margarine and 1/2 cup white sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix with a fork until it is all creamed together.

3. Add 1 egg and 2 Tablespoons of molasses to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix together with a fork.

4. Add 1/2 cup rice flour, 1/4 cup corn starch, 1/4 cup potato starch, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cinnamon to the mixture. Mix well with a fork or wooden spoon.

5. Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper.

6. Drop by spoonfuls (about a rounded teaspoon's worth for each cookie) onto cookie sheets, about 12 cookies per cookie sheet.

7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until crisp around edges.

8. Move cookie sheets to hot pads to let the cookies cool before serving them or storing them for later.

(I cannot vouch for how closely this recipe was followed this time, but the kids' results are very tasty.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sneaky Soup

My friend, neighbour, and owner of my oops-I need-something-spare-pantry-down-the-street passed along a recipe for baked potato soup.  It's such a simple recipe and it has a dirty little secret.  I'm not going to tell you the secret yet.  I'll let you try to figure it out.

So I made it last night.  I asked my family what they thought of the soup.  I didn't tell them what was in it right away.  I waited until after they oohed and aahed and declared it their favourite soup ever.  That's quite a winning commentary since my kids don't typically rave about soup.

Here's my friend's picture.  Ours got devoured too quickly and I don't want to wait to get the recipe up here since it was just so good!

Here's how I made it:

Boil one head of cut up cauliflower until very soft.  Drain.  Add 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock.  Add  4 Tbsp cream cheese.  Add 1/4 tsp pepper.  Blend with a hand blender.  Top with cheese, bacon, green onions...  Whatever your favourite baked potato toppings are.  Listen for all the slurps and yums as your family happily devours the Baked Potato Soup.

I'm sure you've figured it out by now...  There are no potatoes! 

My husband continues to be amazed by the diversity of cauliflower.  It's becoming my favourite veggie!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pumpkin Spiced Latte

I admit that I have not ever had a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks or any other fancy coffee shop.  I usually choose to waste my frivolous money on something with coconut in it.  But I was inspired by our upcoming Thanksgiving celebration and this recipe which I found on Pinterest, so I decided to give it a whirl.  I am very satisfied with this recipe!  I'll probably tweak it a little for my tastes (I already have, but it'll change according to my mood) but it's a great place to start.

Pumpkin Spice Latte 

Yield: enough pumpkin spice mixture for 7 or 8 homemade lattes


7 oz pumpkin puree
1 c. whole milk
1/4 c. sweetened condensed milk

3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. ground dried ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
 1/8 tsp. allspice

Mix pumpkin mixture with hand blender.  

Add 1/3 cup mixture to 1 cup coffee.  Heat as needed.   Top with whipped cream, cinnamon, chocolate, whatever you wish!

Freeze what you don't want to use today by scooping leftover pumpkin mixture into applesauce cups or similarly sized Tupperware, 1/3 cup at a time.  To use, just pop one into a mug, heat in microwave, and add coffee.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Miracle Bread

One of my sisters has Celiac Disease.  This means that she is very negatively affected if she ingests any gluten.  I made this bread for her when she came to visit a few years ago and she loved it.  It's super-easy and doesn't require any kneading.  I passed the recipe along to her and she enjoys it when she can.

Every so often, she sends me a frantic plea for help, "I lost the recipe!  Please send it to me again!"  I will also have the occasional family member ask to have the recipe so they can make bread when my sis is around.   So...

In order that all family can have the recipe if they need it, and in order that my sister will always be able to find it, here is my Gluten Free Multi-Grain Miracle Bread recipe, which I found somewhere on one of the gazillion websites out there.

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Miracle Bread

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup amaranth flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup cornstarch or arrowroot starch
1/4 cup flax seed meal (ground flax seeds)
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 additional egg whites
1 cup water, room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 200F.

Sift the flours, yeast and all other dry ingredients together into a medium bowl. Stir in flax meal and combine.

Combine the wet ingredients in a separate large bowl using a hand-mixer on low or medium speed. When fully combined, slowly add dry ingredient mixture and mix until fully blended, with no lumps. Scrape the sides regularly.

Grease a 9x5" bread pan, and pour the dough into the pan. Turn off the oven and immediately place the pan in it. Do not open the door again, if possible. Allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes. It should rise to the very top of the pan.
Let it rise, uncovered, for 90 minutes.

Increase heat to 350F and bake for approximately 40 minutes. The crust should be golden-brown. Allow to cool slightly before removing it from the pan to finish cooling. Do not slice until the bread is no longer hot.

A nice, crunchy multi-grain bread.
This loaf does not need to be frozen, but if there are leftovers after a few days, place slices in airtight bags and freeze.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sew Much Fun!

My super-mom friend and home-schooler extra-ordinaire, Momo, came over the other day to catch up.  It had been a while.  Since my ??th birthday was the day before, she surprised me with a lovely gift - a hand bag, sewn entirely by herself.  I immediately fell in love with it and then commissioned her nine-year-old daughter to make a cell-phone case to match.

Later that day, as I showed my new bag to my eight-year-old daughter, she asked if we could sew something like that too.  "Why not?"  So we jumped head first into the fun of sewing!  It's been just under a month, but we already have several crafts, made by our hands, and we're working on a few more. 

I thought this bookmark would be great for each of the kids to make for their teachers as an "end of the school year" gift.

An Apple Ribbon Bookmark

And we're taking our fun with us to Family Camp this year.  So far we've got T-shirt pillows, felt designs and Puppy Pals planned for activity time at camp with all our friends.  It'll be Sew Much Fun!
Her first project, a puppy pal!

Cut-out felt flowers attached to a hair elastic.
I haven't worn this shirt since college chorus days. 
I didn't want to get rid of it, but didn't know what to do with it. 
Voila!  A T-shirt pillow!

Are you Sew Crafty?  What were your beginner sewing projects and what are you working on now?  I'd love some tips on where to go from here!